LIKE FINE WINE: Bella Consulting originally existed solely to promote the Renaissance Wine Festival. Above, company President Rick Simone speaks with Executive Assistant DeAnna Rolli at the firm’s Providence office.
He might not be a native Rhode Islander, but Rick Simone is quite the Ocean State loyalist.
The 39-year-old president of Bella Consulting and Events has been a permanent resident since 1996, when he graduated Johnson & Wales University with a marketing degree in his hand. Afterward, he began a career that has taken him from restaurants to helping promote the state through its official tourism agencies and back to entrepreneurship before landing on running Bella beginning in 2004.
And he’s just kept going since.
“I think a lot of Rhode Islanders right now need a morale boost,” Simone said. “They don’t realize how much we have to offer.”
Simone was drawn to Johnson & Wales, with partial scholarship from Junior Achievement, by its Upside-Down curriculum that allows real-life training during underclassmen years in order to help them make a more informed decision before declaring a major.
He earned an associate degree in business administration and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
His first full-time position was as a marketing assistant at the Bugaboo Creek Corp., where he had interned during his senior year and which at the time owned Hemenways in Providence and various Capital Grille locations.
Having kept up a connection made during college with former Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, he was introduced, he said, to a “full fledge” of hospitality and tourism professionals and a short time after leaving school became convention-services manager for the Providence-Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“That’s what really launched me into where I’m at today,” Simone said. “Mayor Cianci convinced me to stay in Rhode Island. Back then, it was a lot different. You were being offered jobs.”
He stayed with the CVB for a couple of years and then went to work as director of convention services for Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., but remained living in Providence and began to serve on various boards and commissions within the city.
About a year and a half later, he became the deputy director of tourism for the Providence Tourism Council.
“The tourism field is constantly evolving. You’re always dealing with new clientele,” Simone said. “Conventioneers are always trying to grow their attendance.”